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Yesterday we did a post based on Tammy’s conversation with Julia Herz of the Brewers Association about SAVOR and the organizers’ vision for the event. We’re back with more today. Tammy talked with Nancy Johnson, the Events Director for the Brewers Association about how ticket sales were handled.
Based on both of these conversations, our issues with SAVOR have been ameliorated. Despite our inclusive “let’s get as many people in there as want to go” attitude, it’s clear that SAVOR’s organizers intend to limit the event’s scope, including how many people have access as well as how many breweries are involved. It’s a shame for those who were not able to get tickets and are left with the option of looking on eBay or Craigslist and if no luck there, joining one of the associations and get in on the pre-sale next year.
As much as DC beer enthusiasts take a proprietary view of SAVOR thinking of it as a local event, we concede that it’s just not what SAVOR is meant to be. Many of us felt slighted for what we thought were fewer locals having access (turns out that 75% of the tickets went to people in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, just as they did last year), as well as some of our hometown and regional breweries not being included.
But SAVOR is a national event that happens to be located in DC. And we are lucky for that even if more of us don’t actually get to go. So again, it seems that our best option for maximizing what SAVOR brings to the city is to do just that—organize as many ancillary events as possible to take advantage of the presence of so many great brewers and beers in the days before and after SAVOR. Who’s in?
Read on for Tammy’s full interivew with Nancy Johnson.
LH: Why did you decide to have the pre-sale for previous attendees, Brewers Association Members, and American Homebrewers Association members?
NJ: Basically, it’s a member benefit. The Brewers Association is a membership organization and it’s a benefit we can provide to members. We do that with GABF [the Great American Beer Festival] as well. Any public event we do, that would happen. This is a wonderful benefit for our members and a way to say thank you to them for their support. We did the same thing in 2009. Of course, this year the interest was through the roof!
LH: Why wasn’t there a pre-sale in 2008, the first year of SAVOR?
NJ: It was the first year of the event and we were trying to pull everything together. You don’t always think of everything. In all honesty, I’m not positive we didn’t have one.
LH: Will this year’s quick sell-out affect the way tickets are sold next year?
NJ: We’ll look more once everything’s done. One thing we’ve thought about is doing a lottery. SAVOR started out as three-year run. We were going to do it for three years and then evaluate to see if we should continue to do it. And when I say “we” I mean the Board of Directors, at that level. If we are to do it again in 2011, we might possibly look at a ticket lottery. We could go any direciton. Right now we’re very much thinking, “Let’s focus on 2010.” We will figure out what happens next once this year’s event is over.
People ask, “Why don’t you just expand it?” That’s one direction to go, but part of what makes SAVOR attractive is the size of it. There aren’t super long lines. It’s not a festival; it’s more of a tasting event. When you get to a larger size it becomes less of the kind of event we are going for.
As a funny side note, I was listening to a story on NPR the other night. It was about a jazz place in New York—the Village Vanguard. That place is popular and successful but still only seats 123 people. It made me think about SAVOR, that there are other things out there where they don’t grow it. It made me think about SAVOR because the question does come up a lot. Not that I’m 100% opposed to the idea of expanding the event, but I think as events get bigger they become different events.
LH: The reason I’m asking about this is because there is a certain amount of local pride in having SAVOR in DC. As the beer community and culture here has advanced over time, SAVOR has certainly played a role in that growth in the last three years, especially with all the events that happen over the course of the week of the event. We think of it as our own, so you can understand the disappointment when tickets sell out so fast and so many people don’t get to go.
NJ: All events happening around SAVOR are great. We’re just pleased to see that. Looking at last year’s beer event calendar, it looks almost like “DC Beer Month.” All the breweries, they are aware of what is going on, and they are staying in town longer to have a dinner or do a tasting. Maybe SAVOR is the flagship event but there are so many other things going on around it, all these other opportunities to see the brewers and taste the beers. It’s a good point, though, about losing that connection as the event becomes more popular.
LH: Who bought tickets and where are ticket-holders from? What do the percentages look like this year compared to other years?
NJ: I took a look at the list last night and it looks like there are more sales from other states, but 75% of ticket sales are form Maryland, Virgina, and DC, and that’s almost exactly the same percentage as last year. This year we have some ticket sales from about 30 states as well as New Brunswirk, Ontario, and Switzerland (which is somebody that is in the armed forces and I suspect is going to be back from serving or on leave or something).
LH: So it seems like people acted so quickly because they knew they wanted to be back this year. Were you surprised how quickly tickets sold?
NJ: Yes, it did catch us by surprise. It was a great surprise, especially in this economy, to have an event that is that popular. But I attribute it to the craft brewers who are going to be there. Not that we would have done anything differently, but as fast as they went—from selling out in two months last year to two days with the pre-sale and then ten minutes in the general sale—we knew that people were really into it just based on feedback and the number of breweries who wanted to be in it this year, so yeah.
The Lagerheads will be back with more of our conversation with Nancy Johnson about SAVOR and how breweries were chosen next week.